Music Review: The Sea, The Sea by Solomon’s Seal

Hi all…

Folk music is alive and well. Simon Petty has resurrected the sound of 1970’s English folk music by merging his smoky voice with strong piano licks and guitar. Each song seems to merge a melancholy feel with powerful melodies to evoke an emotional connection. Petty also uses unique sounds like the beat of windshield wipers in “Sleeping in the Car” to provide an organic quality to the tracks.

But at the heart of each song, is his lyrics and his voice. The voice is hard to describe without using words like “smoky” and “husky”, but I would most compare it to Peter Gabriel in some respects. Not that Gabriel ever did this style of music, but I think Petty has the same English-born quality that Gabriel has.

Add to that the amazing guitar work and I was in seventh heaven. As an amateur guitar player, I am always listening for picking patterns and transitions and Petty’s style evokes some of the mystique of folk legends like Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Simon and Garfunkel, and James Taylor.

Almost 10 years ago now, Petty came to America with the quartet Minibar to record an album with T Bone Burnett and Universal Records. Though that album, Road Movies didn’t do well commercially, Minibar stayed in California and made two more albums, touring with bands like Willco, Teenage Fanclub, The Jayhawks, and The Wallflowers.

The Sea, The Sea is Petty’s first solo album, produced by Seth Rothschild and recorded between Texas and Brooklyn. The CD includes eleven great songs, but I found myself gravitating towards tracks like “State of the Union Address” and “A Part of the River” for their strong guitar parts and stirring lyrics.

“State of the Union Address” is a beautiful song about letting a girl down easily, but contains some imagery about the cruelty of such an act. “I know it hurts like / Cigarette burns … but you’ll see / you’ll see / it’s all gonna fade / eventually…” The guitar work reminds me a bit of David Wilcox with the simple, yet moving baseline that keeps the song chugging along with a light feel even with the heavy subject matter.

“A Part of the River” tells the story of a man telling his lover that it’s not going to be an easy road if she stays with him. “And cruel, cruel as I am / I know there’s nothing to rely upon / But the weight of your hand” – it’s a pained love. And he’ll eventually come back to her, but “it won’t be an easy ride / if you try and stay with me / I’m a part of the river / that flows away from the sea” – but he may leave again. Their relationship is like the waves rushing in and out with the tides. With the melody, Petty adds to the simplicity of his guitar and vocals with some backing strings to provide some additional depth.

“Diamond in the Sand” features Petty alone with a guitar and is beautiful in its simplicity, telling the story of a man and woman trying to find a perfect relationship – like trying to find a “diamond in the sand”. Love is hard to find and in the end, he comes to realize that he has what he’s been searching for. “And it occurs to me that we’re wasting our time / I can’t believe what I hold in my hands / Why am I trying to find a diamond in the sand?” He’d already found his diamond in the sand.

If you, like me, are a folk junkie, I think you’ll find The Sea, The Sea by Solomon’s Seal much to your liking. You can take a listen to some of the tracks at Petty’s website – SolomonsSealMusic.com. But be sure to support this great artist by picking up his album at his website.

–Fitz

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Music Review: Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming by Sara Lov

Hey all…

In January 2009, Sara Lov released her first album with Nettwerk. The Young Eyes EP introduced the rest of the world to her unique style. Until recently she was part of the band Devics, a popular group in the UK. Stepping out on her own to release her solo work is a bit scary, but she’s taking it in stride. “I learn every day and doing scary things makes me grow,” Lov says.

Her EP included five songs, two of which also made it onto her full-length album released this month. Lov’s songs are simple and weightless, yet infused with a depth most first time solo artists can rarely reach. Her voice embodies a pure sentiment in its sometimes shaky lilt as it lifts the listener through the stories woven into each tune.

So now in March 2009, Lov releases her first full-length album titled Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming and you can tell her confidence continues to build as a solo artist. The arrangements continue to grow as she adds layers of instruments such as cello, ukulele, pump organ, and celesta to support her already distinct voice.

Produced by Zac Rae (Fiona Apple, Annie Lennox, My Brightest Diamond) and mixed by Darrell Thorp (Radiohead, Beck), Lov is joined by cameos on the album from Alex Brown Church (Sea Wolf) and Solon Bixler (Great Northern) as she weaves her tales of innocence and the idealism of youth. We all know that as we get older it becomes harder and harder to see things with “new” eyes and Lov tries to recapture some of that innocence in her lyrics and music.

With each song, she weaves a narrative that can be interpreted many ways. I think that allows the listener a chance to filter the music and words with their own thoughts and memories and make it their own experience. Poetry is like that. It’s a performance captured on paper that can be experienced again and again in different ways because you’re never the same as the last time you read it. Lov’s lyrics hit me in that way.

“Just Beneath the Chords” starts Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming with an interesting twist, using the senses to tell a story I don’t quite now how to interpret. Each time I listen and read the lyrics I come up with a different interpretation. I think iIt’s a cautionary tale about how you can’t ever really know something until you experience it. Lov sings “now the star that shines us / it burns and blinds us / wherever we move / notice how you love the blindness / the burn reminds you / that you can feel too”. An experiential poem if ever there was one, as you listen with your ears and the song talks about your other senses along the way.

One of my favorites on the album has to be “New York,” which is a tale of friends parting and finding it tough to find common ground… “we spoke of the long ago / promised each other we’d never get old / but that was a whole life ago / and now I’m on my own…” The piano and acoustic guitar create an almost haunting feel to this song as though it’s full of ghosts. The video for “New York” has been uploaded to YouTube and it’s one of the most interesting music videos I’ve seen in recent memory, reminding me of some of the early days of MTV with Peter Gabriel and Dire Straits. (You can see it yourself here.)

My other favorite on the album is “Animals,” which Lov describes as a breakup song. Though I’m not sure I agree, it’s definitely about a dysfunctional relationship… “I should have never let you in to me / but I never never learned to swim / until you came around and pushed me in”… It’s a duet between Sara Lov and Alex Brown Church with simple, happy guitar picking in the background as they debate what kind of animal they are to treat each other as they do.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the intriguing art of the album itself, which is used to great effect in the video for “New York” mentioned earlier. Colorful, simple drawings reinforce the fact that the album is about innocence.

For an artist new to solo work, I must say that Lov has it down from the start. Most seasoned solo artists would dream of a first album like Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming. Nettwerk has another winner to add to their impressive retinue of artists.

Be sure to check this one out at your local music store or online.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick the EP and album up at Amazon!

The Young Eyes EP

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MTV remembers the “V” stands for Videos!

Hey all…

This week I saw that MTV has decided to return to its roots. When I watched MTV (yes, I’m old) back in the 1980s, music videos were still young. Each video director and artist had an opportunity to put a unique spin on the new media and share it with the world relativey quickly.

An early MTV station ID

Image via Wikipedia

Since then, MTV doesn’t really seem to show good videos any more (sorry, but I don’t like most of modern pop or R&B). Instead, they play tawdry teenage and college shows that are more fluff than substance. Oh well, it’s the end of an era I guess.

Then this e-mail shows up stating that MTV was putting it’s library of classic music videos online! What a concept. All these cool videos you can only see late at night on VH1 now you can share with a whole new generation of internet-savvy folks!

So be sure to check it out at MTVMusic.com.

I’ve already warped my children with a-ha’s “Take on Me”, Peter Gabriel‘s “Sledgehammer”, and Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller”. 🙂

What are YOUR favorite music videos of this by-gone era? Leave me a comment and a link. I’d love to check ’em out!

–Fitz

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